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Glendon's Hypocrisy on Obama and Notre Dame

April 27, 2009

The grandstanding over President Obama's commencement address next month at Notre Dame reached a new level with word that Harvard professor and former Bush ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon has decided to decline the University's Laetare Medal. But while Glendon is apparently unwilling to appear on the same stage as the pro-choice Obama, she was "profoundly moved" and "honored" to receive an award given to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Martin Sheen and others who share his views on the issue.
In her public letter to Notre Dame president Richard Jenkins, Glendon denounced the plan to give President Obama an honorary degree as flouting a 2004 request from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It demanded that the university "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." "That request," she wrote, "seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it."
Ironically, that charge followed this warm opening:

"When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame's most memorable commencement speeches."

The irony, as it turns out, is double. The "anthology of Notre Dame's most memorable commencement speeches" to which Glendon refers is a book titled, Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses. Published by the University of Notre Dame Press and compiled by the Rev. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and rector and superior of Moreau Seminary, the book features 24 notable graduation speeches from presidents of both parties as well as a litany of figures who no doubt found themselves on opposite sides of the abortion issue:

Among other featured Commencement speakers are: Joseph Kennedy, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Andrew Young, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Condoleezza Rice, Kofi Annan, and Presidents Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan.

Then there is the thorny issue of Laetare Medal itself. As it turns out, the 130 recipients of what Notre Dame itself deems "the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics" includes Senator Moynihan, whose 1992 address with Glendon's in the Go Forth and Do Good book she so praised. And the 2008 Laetare winner was none other than West Wing star and liberal activist Martin Sheen. (Sheen in 2003 declared, "I personally am opposed to abortion, but I will not judge anybody else's right in that regard" and included among his political heroes Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee and Howard Dean.)
As I've suggested before, the real battle being waged by Mary Ann Glendon and her ilk isn't with President Obama, but with her fellow Catholics. Obama, after all, not only won among Catholic voters by a comfortable 9-point margin, he easily defeated John McCain in St. Joseph County, home to the Indiana university, as well as sweeping an October straw poll among Notre Dame students. And as a recent Gallup survey showed, Catholic attitudes towards abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality, out-of-wedlock parenthood and a host of other social issues differ little from the American electorate that put Barack Obama in the White House.
At the end of the day, Glendon would do better to bring up the issue with Condoleezza Rice. Rice, a 1975 Notre Dame graduate who delivered the commencement address the year before Glendon and also appears in the same anthology of speeches, describes herself as "mildly pro-choice."

5 comments on “Glendon's Hypocrisy on Obama and Notre Dame”

  1. this Glendon thing. you have it figured out.
    plus, the post you did on the so-called "war on Catholics" really being a war within Catholic ranks?
    you got that figured out, too.
    so, two for two!
    as your commentator on that earlier post referred to, and which most Catholics don't know, Glendon is a bona fide hater, i.e., board member of the notorious Catholic League, headed by schoolyard bully Bill Donahue.
    keep up the good work.

  2. Identifying as "Catholic" on a Gallup poll; ND student body; straw polls; practicing/weekly Mass attending Catholics (34%, approx 20 million).
    One of these things is not at all like the others. Watch out, to willfully mislead could be a sin, next thing you know someone's calling you a bona-fide hater.

  3. That's quite a slant... Two women that I do not agree with have been vilified and bullied for expressing their opinion. I may not believe in what they stand for, but they have a right to stand on principle as well as having a right to express their opinion. It is a slippery slope do deny the right of free speech or ridiculizing them for doing just that. We are not bullies.

  4. Saying one is Catholic and showing one is Catholic is quite a different matter. Ambassador Glendon has done the right thing.
    It never fails that when one seaks as a liberal they are lauded by the left, when one stays true to their faith they are condemned. I t is fortunate that the left is so perfect that they may give us their wisdom.

  5. I am from OK also. I am 23 and still live here. I, too, am embarrassed by this state and the way the majority of the people here vote. I am embarrassed and enraged also by our elected officials! It drives me crazy that some can not see how crazy and horrible Coburn and Inhofe are. I mean, how can anyone not see how inept they are, and not only inept but they constantly vote in the most idiotic ways, and there are so many poor people in Oklahoma! I see so many homeless when I go into Tulsa! Why do people vote against their own self-interests and against those who need the most help???


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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